Catholic News Service
The pope's coat of arms at Castel Gandolfo.
Catholic News Service
The pope's coat of arms at Castel Gandolfo.
This unsigned editorial appeared in the Feb. 17 issue of The Universe Catholic Weekly, which based in Manchester, England, and serves Catholics in Great Britain and Ireland.

In journalism, some weeks are quieter than others. Occasionally, just occasionally, you also encounter a week when the world seems suddenly to turn completely and utterly upside down.

This was certainly one such week, as without warning the pope announced Feb. 11 that he was resigning, the first such act of abdication in some 600 years.

If the world was at first stunned and shocked -- even disappointed -- by this frank admission of human frailty, it soon became obvious that Pope Benedict's decision came after a profound, and undoubtedly desperately lonely, period of deep reflection and self-examination.

The idea of a pope resigning is not one that sits easy with Catholics, especially those of us who shared Pope John Paul II's last desperate, and very public, journey through declining health and strength.

It must be remembered, though, that Cardinal Ratzinger also shared and understood that last journey of Pope John Paul II -- but far more closely, intimately and more painfully than any of us could ever have done.

For sure, the last heroic struggle of Pope John Paul II is one model of Christian suffering that can offer solace and comfort to anyone having to deal with a last illness and the failure of the human body.

But the resignation of Pope Benedict is no less an example of Christian fortitude and submission to the will of God.

It is not for us to decide whether it is more noble to struggle to the end, or to recognize one's decline and pass over the immense physical and spiritual burden of the papacy to more able hands.

History has given us many different popes, and with it come many different models of inspiration and holiness.

Throughout his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI has expressed an unusually vivid understanding of what it is to be fully human, no more so than in his remarkable and moving writings on the humanity of Christ.

One cannot help but feel that the understanding hand of Jesus has reached back to relieve him of his burden.

Please remember Pope Benedict XVI in your prayers.